Victory was especially sweet for skipper Mike Catt, playing with all his old authority against his former club. But the player who did most to put the skids under Bath was young New Zealander Riki Flutey who set up the first try with a neat chip, scored one of his own to put the game beyond Bath’s reach in the second half and also contributed a dropped goal and two conversions. With skipper Steve Borthwick an anxious spectator along with fellow England squad members Danny Grewcock, Lee Mears, Matt Stevens and Olly Barkley, Bath looked to the reserves who had served them so well on international days last season.
Chris Malone’s late withdrawal also meant a recall for Andy Dunne but the Ireland Under-21 international was wide with two penalty attempts in the first 10 minutes. Instead it was Flutey who opened the scoring on 12 minutes with a drop goal from nearly 50 metres.
A break from Andy Higgins was halted deep in the home 22 and as Bath upped the pressure Irish were caught offside and Dunne equalised from short range. When Bath’s Frikkie Welsh knocked on under no pressure in his 22 the home side took their opportunity with a well-worked try from the scrum, right wing Scott Staniforth latching onto Flutey’s chip.
Bath fell further behind almost immediately as Catt reacted quickest when his attempted drop goal was half charged down and he hacked on to score. Bath played the remainder of the first half without Dunne, sent to the sinbin for a punch. Flutey kicked the goal to punish the offence and Irish turned around 16-3 ahead.
Dunne returned to kick his second penalty straight after the break, but Flutey’s clever footwork unlocked the Bath defence on 55 minutes and he converted his own try to make the lead 23-6.
Without Grewcock and Borthwick Bath’s lineout was a mess and their game plan began to fall to pieces. Number eight Phil Murphy scored their fourth try on 74 minutes with Flutey adding the conversion. Two penalties from replacement Barry Everitt put the game beyond reach and Bath still had enough time to create a try for Michael Lipman in the 13th minute of injury time, with Dunne adding the conversion.